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Religion in Romania

The country has an area of 91,699 square miles and a population of 21.7 million. Religious affiliation tends to follow ethnic lines, with most ethnic Romanians identifying with the Romanian Orthodox Church. Also ethnically Romanian is the Greek Catholic or Uniate church, reunified with the Orthodox Church by fiat in 1948, and restored after the 1989 revolution.

The restitution of private and religious property seized under communism or during World War II continues to move slowly. Particularly problematic is the return of Greek-Catholic churches, which were given to the Romanian Orthodox Church by the communist regime. The Romanian Orthodox Church thus far has turned over very few of these churches, many of which had belonged to the Greek Catholic community for hundreds of years.

According to the 2002 census, Romanian Orthodox believers (including the Orthodox Serb Bishopric of Timisoara) comprised 86.8 percent of the population, and Greek Catholics less than 1 percent, as opposed to about 10% prior to 1948. The Greek Catholic Church claimed that their church membership was undercounted in the official census and estimated that its adherents comprise 3.6 percent of the population. Roman Catholics, largely ethnic Hungarians and Germans, constitute about 5% of the population. Calvinists, Baptists, Pentecostals, and Lutherans make up another 5%. There are smaller numbers of Unitarians, Muslims, and other religions.

The following religious groups comprised less than 2 percent of the population: Old Rite Russian Christian (Orthodox) Church, Protestant Reformed Church, Christian Evangelical Church, Romanian Evangelical Church, Evangelical Augustinian Church, Lutheran Evangelical Church, Unitarian Church of Romania, Baptist Church, Apostolic Church of God (Pentecostal Church), Seventh-day Adventist Church, Armenian Church, Judaism, Islam, Jehovah's Witnesses, the Baha'i Faith, the Family (God's Children), the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), the Unification Church, the Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church, Transcendental Meditation, Hare Krishna, and Zen Buddhism.

Most religious groups have followers dispersed throughout the country, although a few religious communities are concentrated in particular regions. Old Rite members (Lippovans) are located in Moldavia and Dobrogea. Most Muslims are located in the southeastern part of the country. Most Greek Catholics reside in Transylvania, but there are also Greek Catholics in Bucharest and the Banat and Crisana regions. Protestant and Catholic believers tend to be in Transylvania, but many also are located around Bacau. Orthodox and Greek Catholic ethnic Ukrainians live mostly in the northwestern part of the country. Orthodox ethnic Serbs are primarily in Banat. Armenians are concentrated in Moldavia and the south. Members of the Protestant Reformed, RomanCatholic, Unitarian, and Lutheran churches from Transylvania are virtually all ethnic Hungarians.

Romanian troops during World War II participated in the destruction of the Jewish communities of Bessarabia and Transnistria (both now comprising the independent Republic of Moldova) and Bukovina (now part of Ukraine). Although subjected to harsh persecution, including government-sanctioned pogroms and killings, most Jews from the territory now comprising Romania survived the Holocaust. Mass emigration, mostly to Israel, has reduced the surviving Jewish community from over 300,000 to less than 10,000.

The country's many Orthodox monasteries, as well as the Transylvanian Catholic and Evangelical Churches, some of which date back to the 13th century, are repositories of artistic treasures. The famous painted monasteries of Bukovina make an important contribution to European architecture. Restitution of Greek Catholic properties seized by the communist-era government in 1948 (and transferred to the Romanian Orthodox Church) also remains a problem. The Greek Catholic Church was the only denomination outlawed under communist rule and whose churches were confiscated and given to another denomination, the Orthodox Church.

Minority religious groups continue to claim, credibly, that low-level government officials impeded their efforts at proselytizing and interfered with other religious activities. The Government continues to differentiate between recognized and unrecognized religious groups, and registration and recognition requirements continued to pose obstacles to minority religious groups. Some international organizations, domestic nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and minority religious groups criticized a December 2006 religious freedom law (which took effect in January 2007) for institutionalizing discrimination against minority religions and creating impediments for many such groups to obtain official recognition.

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Page last modified: 08-07-2012 19:09:42 ZULU